The federal election and immigration
by Michael Scott
In the midst of a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Canadians are counting down to the federal election set for September 20, 2021. The political parties are presenting their positions on many issues, including immigration, in order to secure your vote. In Canada the major question about immigration is not if we should accept immigrants but how we can best welcome them. Canada has a long history of supporting humanitarian immigration and refugee resettlement.
At this time, the minority Liberal government has been pursuing a policy of bringing in 400,000 plus new arrivals in 2021 to make up for the shortfall of arrivals in 2020 and to fuel the economic recovery following a reopening of the economy. There are unresolved issues such as the backlog in application processing, outdated technology, and indecision about what to do with the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) for 2021. These are only some of the issues at stake in the upcoming election. Some of the recommendations of the major parties on immigration are noted below.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, which historically occupies a centrist position in the Canadian political landscape. The advantage or disadvantage for the Liberal party is that the voters can judge their words by their past six years in power, even as a minority government. The Liberal’s 2021 election platform for immigration has yet to be released but Trudeau has promised to resettle up to 20,000 Afghans if re-elected. This repeats his past promise made in the 2015 election to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees. He won the election that year by making the promise which he has since kept. The government’s response to the COVID pandemic has been praised by many. The Liberals have been actively engaged in improving immigration programs with the goal of 400,000 plus landings for 2021 – a realistic projection based on landing numbers to date.
The immigration minister called for a modernization of the immigration system, which began earlier in the year. The party argued that record high numbers of arrivals are needed to fuel the economic recovery of the country. In 2017 the Liberals introduced a multi-year immigration levels plan so that the system can prepare for the increased landings. Some of the other initiatives include the Agri-Food pilot to attract foreign agri-food workers, a Rural and Northern Immigration pilot to attract newcomers to areas beyond the major population centres, and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot that helps Atlantic Canada employers hire foreign workers.
The Conservatives, on the right of the political spectrum, have been the official opposition in parliament and leader Erin O’Toole is hopeful of replacing the Liberals as the party in power. The Conservative party has been out of office for several years but had a bad record on immigration under the former Harper government. The question voters can ask is whether O’Toole is fundamentally different from Harper or is he a return to the same. The Conservative immigration platform supports an immigration system that welcomes international entrepreneurs and workers as well as offering refuge to human rights defenders and other fleeing persecution as well as supporting the reunification of families.
The Conservatives propose implementing an additional fee for accelerated processing. The expected revenues would offset the costs of improving and modernizing the immigration processing system. They support an efficient system to utilize the full potential of the immigration department. The party wants a world transparent department where all interactions between immigration officers and applicants are accessible to the applicants to ensure accountability in the system. The Conservatives support enhanced training for immigration staff to make then culturally aware and provide applicants with a chance to correct mistakes on their application submissions within an acceptable time frame. The Conservatives continue to support improved credential recognition of foreign education and work experience, as stated in the 2015 campaign. The Conservatives oppose the current lottery system for the Parent and Grandparent Program in favour of first-come, first-served. They would qualify submissions by time submitted and by whether applicants would be providing childcare or family support, and by their language proficiency. Finally, the party promises more resources to process applications more quickly. The Conservatives recommend introducing measures to allow parents and grandparents to live in Canada for up to five years without permanent resident status and the applicants could extend their stay if they have purchased health insurance.
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is considered left of centre on the political spectrum and leader Jagmeet Singh is considered by many to be the most-popular candidate in this political campaign. They have not been in power so they cannot be measured by their immigration practices or policies. The NDP promises to end the caps imposed on Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) and address the backlogs. They also support improving application processing and reducing backlogs. Like the Conservatives, the NDP supports and expansion of the credentials recognition program as an adjunct to skilled worker immigration and they want to get rid of the backlog of asylum seekers. Their intention is welcome and ambitious in scope but does not specify how to achieve this goal. The party is a strong advocate of pay equity and equal treatment for all applicants. They advocate an end to wage discrimination, which affects immigrant women in particular, and recommend the introduction of pay equity legislation. The party position on immigration puts emphasis on government intervention and legislation, which can be contrasted to that of the Conservatives, who support individual rights and actions of immigrant applicants and employers as opposed to government regulation.
The fourth major party in Canada is the Quebec nationalist party, the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc is a centrist or left of centre party and can be distinguished from the other parties by their regional nature and support of French language and culture rights, and a history of advocating independence for Quebec. The province of Quebec is distinct from all other provinces in Canada by having its own immigration program and department. They also have a history under former provincial leaders, such as Jacques Parizeau, of being openly hostile to immigrants as “the others,” who voted against breaking away from Canada. The party only runs candidates in Quebec ridings because the sovereignty of Quebec is at the heart of their party agenda. Since 2019 the leader has been Yves-Francois Blanchet. The Bloc believe that having an independent immigration system works to the advantage of Quebec. They advocate using anonymous resumes in public service positions to curb discrimination in the hiring process and want Canada to repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. Their purpose is to curb irregular crossings at the Canada-US border for a more orderly reception of immigrants. They also want French-speaking refugees directed to be resettled in Quebec.
How you vote is up to you, but please take some time to make your decision. Measure the promises being made by the candidates and parties. Voting is our fundamental democratic right. Take a chance and vote. Yes, someone can promise you the moon and not deliver, but that is the nature of politics. If immigration is important to you, take a serious look at what the parties are saying and what they have done in the past. This article may be only the beginning of your research, but it is a reminder of the things you should look into. The material above does not answer in detail what the political parties and leaders are saying, but it is a start. My wish is that you all make an informed choice and vote. Good luck and good voting.
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: email@example.com.
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